Italians, the biological will, and euthanasia


by Federico Neresini

A large majority of Italians – 73% – are in favour of the so-called ‘biological will’. This finding is all the more interesting if one considers that there are no marked differences between catholics (71%) and non-believers (83%). It is likely that perception of the matter has been influenced by debate on the Welby affair; for there is a significant difference between attitudes to euthanasia today and as expressed in 2005. Today more Italians are in favour of halting the treatment of patients for whom there is no hope of a cure (an increase from 30% to 42%); in the past, by contrast, the majority view was that life should be prolonged with every means possible (40%). Moreover, the difference between catholics and non-believers in their attitudes to euthanasia has diminished further. The gap is more marked in regard to the other two options: almost one-third of catholics believe that life should be maintained at all costs (13% among non-believers); while 33% of non-believers accept the possibility of drug-induced death (14% of catholics).

This article was published in Nova24, the scientific supplement of the newspaper Il Sole 24 ore on Thursday, January 25th, 2007.

Data and results can be downloaded here (Italian version).

The Science in Society Monitor has been created in order to furnish a solid knowledge base for discussion among researchers, citizens and policy-makers and it is the very first effort to monitor trends in Italian public opinion concerning technological research and innovation
It is an initiative by the research center Observa – Science in Society, realized thanks to the contribution of the Foundation Compagnia di San Paolo.
The research supervisors of the Monitor are Massimiano Bucchi (University of Trento), Federico Neresini and Giuseppe Pellegrini (University of Padua), in association with Valeria Arzenton.

The survey was conducted by means of CATI-method telephone interviews with a sample of 988 subjects, stratified by gender, age, and geographical area of residence, and representing the Italian population aged 15 and over.